This So-Called Disaster—MGM/UA
This avant-garde documentary traces the weeks of rehearsal leading up to a 2000 play by playwright and director Sam Shepard, based on his relationship with his own alcoholic father. Shepard assembled a cast that included Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, and Woody Harrelson, and while it's interesting to watch these pros prepare for their curtain call, they all seem to get along too well to make this more than an occasionally interesting behind-the-scenes look at live theater. The best drama—whether fiction or reality television—comes from conflict, but there's none to be found here, despite the disc jacket's claim that the play's characters "set off a powder keg of emotions so explosive that the actors themselves are drawn into the fray." This is just dull, and even Shepard appears to be dozing off during some of the script-reading sessions. The best moment comes when Harrelson and Penn, apparently competing with Nolte for the title Most Scruffy Looking Actor, bust each other's chops on some of their past film choices (yes, Shanghai Surprise comes into the conversation).
Produced by IFC Films, the full-screen video exhibits a raw, grainy look, as if the film were shot with a high-quality analog camcorder. Some shots are blurred momentarily as the camera looks for a focal point, like many a home video. While this may lend an immediate, you-are-there look, it mostly comes off as low budget. Audio is Dolby Digital mono, and is adequate for the material.
There are no extras whatsoever, making this disc as sparse as the subject matter itself.